A 1960s Love Story
Charles S. Isaacs
Political thriller, Romance, Historical, Fiction
November 6, 2020
It’s the late 1960s. The Vietnam War, the Antiwar Movement and the Black Power Movement are rushing toward their explosive peaks. In the midst of this charged environment, an inter-racial pair of young activists fall madly in love. Awaiting them are excitement, danger, heartache and redemption.
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It’s September 1967. Steve Harris – white, idealistic, naïve -- begins his studies at Chicago’s Midway University. During that first year, he will fall in love, fight to end the Vietnam War, confront painful truths about his family, and be jailed and beaten by police. Through this crucible, he emerges with a transformed consciousness, of the world and of himself.
His awakening begins with a rousing antiwar speech delivered by Emma Gold, a Depression-era radical. When Emma introduces him to young Cat Crawford -- inter-racial, brilliant and exotically beautiful – his bewitching is complete. The two students become fast friends. Their bond is tested, though, by the mounting demands of the times, and by their own deep-seated psychological issues. Cat, who is grieving the sudden death of her parents, is determined to resist forming a close relationship with anyone (besides Emma, who “adopted” her after the tragedy). Steve is haunted by recurring nightmares, stemming from a childhood trauma of which he has no memory.
Shortly after committing himself against the war, he joins a massive March on the Pentagon. The day turns from festivity to horror when demonstrators are physically attacked by soldiers and federal marshals. His disillusion with the government deepens.
Disillusion rises in another dimension on Thanksgiving Day, when he brings Cat home to meet his family, and is blindsided by their racist attitudes. Rather than stay the weekend, the couple make an early exit Friday morning. Steve’s decision to protect Cat, rather than appease his family, pushes her over the edge. She overcomes the fear of loss that animates her resistance to intimacy. They spend their first night together. The friendship blossoms into a passionate, though often stormy, love affair.
1968 is marked by campus unrest, urban rebellions, assassinations, and political violence. Peaceful demonstrations devolve into clashes with the hostile Chicago Police and the National Guard. Deeply troubled by the atrocities being committed “in our name,” Steve feels compelled to participate in these events, regardless of risk. Cat pleads with him to avoid danger. After a march in which he is beaten and arrested, she tries to leave him, but finds herself unable to do so.
The relationship takes a fateful turn when Steve joins the staff planning major demonstrations during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which are to culminate with a march on the convention itself. He works tirelessly to obtain the necessary permits, but Mayor Daley’s administration refuses to issue them. Without the permits, the march will be illegal and dangerous. Still, the planning and organizing continue. Cat is terrified that Steve will be badly hurt, or even killed, in violence that appears increasingly inevitable.
As Convention Week approaches, the two reach a compromise. They will join the banned march, but only as far as the police allow. When the order to turn around is issued, the couple will obey. But things do not go as planned. There is no “turn-around” order. Instead, the marchers are attacked, with clubs and tear gas, by a huge force of police and soldiers. Steve and Cat try to escape the chaos, but there is no way out.
It is Cat, not Steve, who sustains the worst injuries. As she lies in a coma, clinging to life, his overwhelming sense of guilt leads him to consider suicide. All that keeps him going are dreams of violent revenge. Emma’s wisdom inspires an epiphany, though, and he commits himself to Cat’s recovery. Eventually, his loving care bears fruit. She emerges from the coma and eventually recovers nearly all of her functioning. Steve vows to never risk losing her again.